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Baroque Art

History >> Art History

General Overview

Baroque is a term used to describe a period and style of art. It is used to describe paintings, sculptures, architecture, and music of that period.

When was the Baroque style popular?

Baroque art became popular in the 1600s. It started in Italy and moved to other areas of Europe and the world.

What are the characteristics of Baroque art?

The Baroque style started with the Catholic Church. The church wanted its religious paintings to become more emotional and dramatic. This type of style spread to where much of the art of the time became very dramatic, full of life and movement, and emotional.

In Baroque art there was generally action and movement. Angels flew, people fought, crowds cowered in fear, and saints rose to the heavens. Baroque sculptures were often made of rich materials such as colorful marble, bronze, or even gilded with gold.

Examples of Baroque Art

The Entry of St. Ignatius into Heaven (Andrea Pozzo)

This example of Baroque art is a fresco painted on the ceiling of the Church of Saint Ignatius. It is full of movement and drama. There are numerous figures of saints floating up to the heavens with Saint Ignatius at the center entering heaven.


Ceiling of Saint Ignatius
(Click image to see larger version)

The drama is heightened by the amazing illusion of perspective. The ceiling is actually flat, but Pozzo uses the drawing technique of foreshortening to make it appear as if the walls of the church continue to rise until the opening at the top to the sky.

Las Meninas (Diego Velazquez)

Las Meninas is a portrait of the Spanish princess Margarita. The title of the painting means "The Maids of Honor". However, this isn't a typical portrait. In keeping with the Baroque style, the painting is full of drama and movement.


Las Meninas
(Click image to see larger version)

In the painting, the maids are waiting on the young princess, but other things are happening as well. The artist himself, Diego Velazquez, is in the painting to the left working on a large canvas. The king and queen are shown in the mirror posing for the painting that Velazquez is painting. At the same time, one of the staff is going up the stairs in the background and one of the entertainers is kicking the dog at the front right.

The Calling of St. Matthew (Caravaggio)


Calling of St. Matthew
(Click image to see larger version)

Caravaggio was one of the true master painters and this may be his greatest painting. In the painting, Jesus is calling St. Matthew to follow him. Movement is shown in the pointing of Jesus' hand as well as the turning of the men at the table towards Jesus. The real mastery of this painting is in the lighting. A bright light comes from the background and shines on Matthew. The lighting gives the painting drama and emotion.

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